Question: Removing North Carolina/Kentucky, what's one game (conference or non-conference) that you're looking forward to watching this season?
Peter Robert Casey (Five-Star Basketball)
UConn at Syracuse on February 11th. 'Cuse is on its way out [of the Big East]. Both teams are expected to be inside the Top 10 nationally, and the Huskies and Orange always serve up a great treat. They'll be jockeying for a top-standing in the Big East, and the Dome will be rocking. It's already circled on my calendar.
Rob Dauster (Ballin' is a Habit)
Kentucky-Louisville on New Year's Day is going to be awesome. I'm personally hoping that when Duke and North Carolina play on the last day of the regular season, the ACC title will be on the line. Syracuse-UConn will be awesome as well. I'll be able to attend the Battle of the Boulevard this year -- the rivalry game between Lipscomb and Belmont. Can that count?
Brian Ewart (VUHoops.com)
I really can't wait to see UNC vs. Michigan State in the Carrier Classic. The whole concept is amazing and while Michigan State is coming into the game unranked, I still think it could end up being a very good game.
In the Big East, I'm pretty excited to see UConn and Syracuse go at it. Both are expected to be great teams this year and those two games could have a big effect on the conference title. It will also be interesting to see how UConn fans react to having Syracuse, a team on its way out the conference door, in their house.
Troy Machir (Ballin' is a Habit)
There might not be that many games that we can look to from this far away and already hype up, with UNC/Kentucky being the obvious exception. That being said, I think there are a bunch of games down the road that, if things pan out, could make for fantastic match-ups. I am really looking forward to this season's Maui Invitational, which features the most-loaded field in the tournament's history. I also am looking forward to the annual Crosstown Shootout between Xavier and Cincinnati. The Bearcats have made improvements every year since Mic Cronin took over, and this very well could be the year they reap the rewards of hard work. Likewise, Xavier is one of the deepest teams in the country, and features one of the most exciting guards in the county, Tu Holloway. Plus, I mean, it's a non-conference cross-town rivalry. Both these teams could suck and this game would still be entertaining.
Ray Mernagh (NBE Sports)
There's a lot of games I'm looking forward to, just like the rest of us I'll be that guy that watches a countless number of them over the next five months. One game I'll be at that I'm looking forward to is New Year's Day when Cincinnati comes to Pittsburgh. Cincinnati is getting a lot of love but they need a big win on the road to make me a believer. They will be a veteran group with a gaudy record but how they perform on New Years Day will tell us a lot about how "real" they are.
Jon Pence (SCACCHoops.com)
If you're taking away the UNC/UK game, then I'll go with a matchup that sees Duke go play a true road game at Ohio State in late November. The Blue Devils rarely play true road games, but Duke will get a tough matchup with Ohio State. The fun thing to watch will be Jared Sullinger against Duke's duo of Mason and Miles Plumlee. How will Austin Rivers fare in his first road game? This should be a fun one.
Jon Teitel (CollegeHoops.net)
I will do one of each. Conference game(s) of the year: it is hard to improve upon a buzzer-beater in a one-game playoff to decide who goes to the NCAA Tournament, but after last spring's Harvard-Princeton classic I recommend scanning your satellite to see them play twice in a two-week span (February 11th/24th). Non-conference game of the year: since most non-conference games happen early in the season before teams have a chance to form an identity and share some time together on the court, I am pretty psyched for the late-season Xavier-Memphis match-up (February 4th). Senior Tu Holloway will try to show the NBA scouts that he is better than his 1-8 FG/5 TO performance in last year's NCAA Tournament loss to Marquette, while hometown super-frosh Adonis Thomas should have 20 games under his belt by then.
Ben Weixlmann (Heard This Blog)
What a loaded question. Just because I imagine several folks will pick more obvious answers, I'll try to go outside the box. Because I cover the Atlantic 10, I'm really excited to see Xavier-Memphis. The Musketeers are loaded yet again, and head coach Chris Mack has done an incredible job with his talent in Cincinnati. Memphis head man Josh Pastner is no slouch, either, and his squad figures to be a dark horse Final Four contender. Can't wait for that one on Feb. 4.
There are some very attractive games on the schedule of both varieties, but if I had to pick one matchup I'm going with either of the two battles between Fairfield and Iona in the MAAC (January 27th and February 24th). The Gaels are have the nation's second-best assist man from last season (Scott Machado) back along with a number of key returnees including "Optimus Prime" (Mike Glover). Add in some talented newcomers in Rashad James and Arizona transfer Lamont "MoMo" Jones and Tim Cluess won't lack for options.
But the same goes for Fairfield under first-year head coach Sydney Johnson, with Derek Needham anchoring the backcourt and transfers Rakim Sanders (Boston College) and Desmond Wade (Houston) ready to go. These two are expected to be the class of the MAAC, meaning that the stakes should be high as well.
Next question: Outside of the generally accepted top four (UNC/UK/Ohio State/UConn) who do think can win the national title?